Tuesday, March 24, 2020

From the gentle, thunderous hiss of slumber, across the hall and clocking into work, all in under three minutes yesterday. Working from home is already testing the patience of some of my coworkers, but I found myself immersed in the celebratory whoosh of grey-beige cubicle liberation, expansive sunlight and numerous canine companions. I could see doing this far beyond our prescribed isolation. Working from home is a thorough joy, especially when it coincides with this:

National Puppy Day

Founded in 2006 by Colleen Paige, who also founded National Cat Day and National Dog Day, and who calls herself a “pet lifestyle expert”, this is a glorious thing to celebrate while one is cooped up indoors. As our regular readers (both of you) will recall, we obtained a fresh-from-the-dog-factory beast earlier this year, a golden retriever by the name of Liberty. Liberty is a curious creature. She has twice now brought me one of our baseboards as a gift. She plays in the mud, and when I try to wipe her feet she tries to devour the towel. Her excited bounding when food is about to be served can only be described as Tigger-esque.

A puppy is a toilsome undertaking, at least at first. It means constantly looping through one’s home, checking for unwanted digestive refuse in puddle or turd form. It means hiding headphones out of reach, and securing anything that should not be tooth-fodder. It means committing, not simply to feeding, checking water, and exercising the thing, but to a lifetime of giving and receiving care from this creature. It pains me to read articles of people dropping dogs off at shelters because the cute has worn off.

Liberty has proven herself to be quite exceptional. She has been with us for less than two months (and has yet to reach the four-month-mark in her little life), and she has already learned to sit, to lie down, to come, to hop off when told to, to shake a paw, to roll over, to wait patiently for food to slowly descend to her mouth, and most impressively to ring a bell at the back door when her back-end is ready to make a deposit. She graduated from her first training class last night, and has learned more in her few short weeks on this planet than all of our bulldogs have learned collectively – and this is going back to 2003 when we got our first one.

I spent yesterday at work, yet surrounded by puppies. It was a celebration of extreme joy. Thanks, Libby.

National Chia Day

The fact that we did not spend this day styling the chia-hair of a Chia-Pet in the shape of Sophia from the Golden Girls or Mr. T. means that we have spend this day poorly. I have wanted a Chia-Pet from the first time I saw the commercials, even despite understanding that they are pointless and silly, and would provide my life with absolutely no substance or noteworthy event. Screw it, maybe we made the right call.

For breakfast yesterday morning we had smoothies featuring chia as a key ingredient. Well, for me it was my Hobbit-like second breakfast, as I’d already been “at work” for two hours by the time Jodie crawled out of bed. It tasted earthy and vaguely sweet. It didn’t convert me to a chia fanatic, but it was actually pretty good.

Chia seeds come from the salvia hispanica plant, which makes me wonder if they are related to salvia, the drug. No matter. Chia seeds were cultivated by the Aztecs, and they pop up all over the place in Central American cuisine. They’re a decent source of protein, carbs (the good kind), and B vitamins. And they’re quite tasty too, which I believe makes them worthy of getting their own day. Not quite as exciting as the Bavarian crepes from Sunday, but moderately interesting, which is about the same thing I’d say about our next big party platform:

National Melba Toast Day

Ah, melba toast. Hard and crunchy like stale toast, but with the flavour of… an unsalted cracker. I suppose they are more cracker than toast, especially since you don’t have to cook them to get them crunchy, but… what’s the point? You can get much more flavourful crackers, and if you’re just looking to use them as a conduit for whatever topping meets your fancy, you can get better crackers for that too. So why melba?

Yesterday Jodie and I sampled some melba toast with dinner. It’s not bad, and with the right spread or topping it would be a fine snack. Not exactly a celebration – I mean, Stoned Wheat Thins and Premium Plus crackers don’t get their own day.

For the history of this crunch-food, we turn once again to the great French chef Auguste Escoffier, who named the stuff after Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian opera singer. This is the same guy who named the delicious Peach Melba for the same Dame, and who also created the fantastic Pears Helene dessert we enjoyed on March 15. Escoffier – as I wrote about on March 15 – was a huge influence in French cuisine. This somehow includes melba toast.

The Mayo Brothers (the guys who built the clinic) prescribed an 18-day reducing diet to actress Ethel Barrymore back in 1925, and it became one of the first diet fads to sweep through popular culture. That diet happened to include melba toast as a key component, which led to it becoming so common on grocery shelves in this part of the world. Thanks, Mayo boys and Mr. Escoffier, for giving us an excuse to eat crumbly crackerstuffs yesterday. It was wild.

National Near Miss Day

31 years ago, on March 23, 1989 (yeah, that was 31 years ago – sorry everyone), an asteroid flew within 500,000 miles from the earth, nearly reducing our civilization to dust and debris. It would have been the equivalent of a 600 megaton atomic bomb. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was about 15 kilotons, so we’re talking the difference between a sneeze and the Death Star cannon here. The largest nuclear weapon ever tested was the Tsar Bomba, detonated by the USSR in 1961 at about 58 megatons. So ten of those. This was truly a near-miss.

I can see the value in celebrating a day in which we almost perished. Perhaps if the asteroid had shaved things a little closer we’d be celebrating this on a grander scale. I’m willing to bet none of my readers (or, ‘neither’, I guess) were aware this day existed before now. The proper way to celebrate it, according to one source, is to learn more about asteroids and such. I think the best way to celebrate it is to appreciate the fragility of life, and how great it is that we’ve been able to live through the last 31 years and experience the internet, The Wire, and the advent of all-day breakfast at McDonald’s. It’s good to be alive.

Jodie and I got literal with this day, and threw stuff at one another, just barely missing. As expected, Jodie hit me with her first two throws, which is why we used a plush animal and not, say, a rock to represent a mini-asteroid.

National Chip And Dip Day

So many food related items today. Fortunately this one comes quite naturally. We had a bag of Lay’s ripple chips and a container of French onion Helluva Good Dip, so that was our snack. There’s not much more to say about this celebration, as we simply ate it and enjoyed it.

Chip dip emerged as a fad of the 50’s, alongside basement tiki bars, hula hoops and not having polio. Lipton launched it all with a marketing campaign to sell French onion soup mix, along with the recipe to mix it with sour cream or cream cheese for a dunk-pool for potato chips. At first they called it California Dip, probably because it was weird and different, and that’s what people associated with California at the time. Salsa, bean dip and melted cheese all predate the Lipton campaign, but we’re here to celebrate what we all know as potato chip dip.

We hope you had some chips and dip yesterday, or that you grab some today for a snack. If you’re out, don’t head to the store to pick some up. Be smart. Stay home. Celebrate through our enjoyment if you need to.

Today is a light day, which will leave me more time to work from home through the clunky and slow connection to my office. We’ll be doing this:

  • National Cheesesteak Day. Who doesn’t love a Philly cheesesteak? We do, and we’ll be having it for dinner.
  • National Chocolate Covered Raisin Day. Raisins, on the other hands, are little dried turds for the most part. We picked up some (hopefully) quality chocolate covered raisins for the day, so we’ll see how much we enjoy dessert.

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